The Cold War was a long time ago, yet still vivid in some of our memories. John Foster Dulles was a hero of that conflict between East and West. He was Secretary of State under President Eisenhower from 1953 to 1959 and a stanch opponent of Communism. Secretary Dulles was also a devout Presbyterian. His father, Allen Dulles, was a Presbyterian minister. His grandfather had been a Presbyterian missionary. Can you imagine Secretary Dulles’ sorrow when his youngest son, off in college, came to doubt his Christian faith. Worse, that young man, after college, converted to Catholicism! Secretary Dulles and his youngest were estranged, didn’t communicate. That wayward son went farther and joined the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits, and was ordained a priest!
That wayward young man was Fr. Avery Dulles, one of the foremost Catholic theologians of the 20th century. Before his death in 2008 he was made a cardinal, a special adviser to the pope. He would not accept the office of bishop, however. Cardenal Dulles loved his family. He didn’t hate mother and father in the sense of wishing them harm, but he saw no alternative but to follow the truth. He was a priest who celebrated the same Masses we celebrate now. He read the Gospel we just heard, “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26). I’m sure he was conflicted and uncertain, but he knew the truth of God could not be denied. The truth of God is what the Catholic Church teaches, as we hear from the Second Vatican Council (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church #25). The Church teaches for Christ.
But for Cardinal Dulles, this was not just about accepting the truth. He prayed the same opening prayer we prayed this Sunday, “Look graciously upon your beloved sons and daughters, that those who believe in Christ may receive true freedom.” He was very familiar with Christ’s words, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:31 – 32). Living the truth of God sets us free, truly free. Jesus Christ is the Truth of God and we encounter Him in the Mass. Christ present in the Eucharist at Mass, on the Altar, is the Truth of God. There is more. The prayers of the Mass are part of Divine Revelation (CCC 1124). The opening prayer of this Sunday’s Mass is intended to direct us to true freedom, the freedom of the children of God (Romans 8:21).
Living our lives according to the teaching of Christ is not easy and sometimes brings us into conflict with people we love and respect. We accept that without animosity. God tells us, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1). The Truth of God is our hope for full life, finally eternal life. Not after we die, but now. The point of the sacramental life of the Church is to help and guide us to that life. By the way, Cardinal Dulles and his father were reconciled. Secretary Dulles, as a force in American diplomacy until his death, would comment that having a son in the Jesuits, was rather helpful.